Help at Airports – Disabled People – UK and European

Focus on Disability - For Disabled People, the Elderly and their Carers in the UK

UK and European airports are legally obliged to offer disabled people or people with mobility problems help and assistance in the airport and on the plane.

Disabled people travelling alone on the plane need to be capable of performing certain safety tasks.

European law legislates that disabled persons and persons with reduced mobility (PRM) have a legal rights to assistance when travelling by air. If you require special needs you need to let airlines know at least 48 hours before you travel. Learn more about services for disabled passengers and additional seating fares for travel companions. However, if no notification is given, airports are required to make all reasonable efforts to provide assistance.

The services below should be available at all European airports if you have a sensory, physical or learning disability which affects your mobility when using transport:

* facilities to summon assistance at designated arrival points, such as at terminal entrances, at transport interchanges and in car parks
* assistance to reach check-in
* help with registration at check-in
* assistance with moving through the airport, including to toilets if required
* help with getting on and off the plane
* free carriage of medical equipment and up to two items of mobility equipment
* a briefing for you and any escort or companion on emergency procedures and the layout of the cabin
* help with stowing and retrieving baggage on the plane
* assistance with moving to the toilet on the plane (some planes will have an on-board wheelchair)
* someone to meet you off the plane and help you reach connecting flights or get to the next part of your journey

When Travelling alone

To travel alone, you must be able to:

* unfasten your seat belt
* leave your seat and reaching an emergency exit
* put on a oxygen mask and lifejacket
* understand the safety briefing and any instructions given by the crew in emergency situations

Airline cabin crew are not able to provide personal care. For safety reasons, airlines are entitled to require that you travel with a companion if you are not ‘self-reliant’.

If you need help with feeding, breathing, using medication or using the toilet you will also need to travel with a companion.

Plane Seating

Airlines should allow you to choose the seat most suitable for your needs. However, if you’re disabled or have reduced mobility you’re not allowed to sit in seats which allow direct access to emergency exits. This is because of safety reasons.
Additional seats

If you need to travel with a companion, the airline should make all reasonable efforts to seat them next to you.

If the airline requires you to travel with a companion, then they may be able to offer a reduced fare for the second ticket. This will usually be a reduction against the full fare.
There may be a limit on the number of reduced fares an airline can offer on one flight. This especially applies if it’s a holiday package or charter flight. Ask your travel agent or the airline for more details.

Some disabled travellers may need to occupy two seats for reasons related to their disability. Decisions regarding costs for this will be made on a case-by-case basis. An airline may charge for two seats or may give the second seat at a reduced rate or free.

Where reduced fares are offered, airlines may require medical proof of your need to travel with a companion or book an extra seat. You should ask the airline or your travel agent what information you will need to give. For example, a letter from your doctor.

The Department for Transport

has published a code of practice for air travel:

Access to air travel for disabled persons and persons with reduced mobility.

The Code provides guidance to the UK air travel industry on how it can meet its legal obligations. It sets out recommendations and good practice to ensure disabled people and people with reduced mobility enjoy a consistent and seamless level of service. The code covers the whole journey, from accessing information at the booking stage through to arriving at the final destination.

Legal rights

Under European law, disabled persons and persons with reduced mobility have legal rights to assistance when travelling by air. There is detailed passenger information leaflet available on the Department for Transport website and of the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

Your rights in air travel – Equality and Human Rights Commission website

Before you go

Ideally, you should ask for any assistance or services when making your travel booking and complete the ABTA checklist for disabled people. This will help airlines and airports to provide any service assistance you require for your journey. If you have pre-booked assistance then you should ask for this to be written on your ticket or itinerary.

Airline cabin crew do not provide personal care and may require you to travel with a companion if you are unable to look after yourself. You may be able to get a reduced fare for extra seating if it is needed because of your disability or for a travel companion. See ‘Airport and airline services for disabled travellers’ to find out more.

Taking mobility Equipment

Most airlines will carry up to two items of mobility equipment free of charge. Larger items such as wheelchairs have to be ‘checked in’ along with your luggage and put into the aircraft’s hold. It would be useful to inform the airline of the weight of the wheelchair as different airlines have different policies on wheelchair weight limitations. Smaller items such a walking canes can be taken into the cabin with you.

Medical oxygen

Some airlines will provide emergency medical oxygen free of charge. Others make a charge. A very small number of airlines will allow you to take your own oxygen cylinder equipment on board. Although some airlines allow the carriage of portable oxygen concentrators (POC) to be on-board the aircraft for free. You should check with the airline before you fly with them.

You can get more information about travelling with oxygen supplies from the NHS Home Oxygen Service and British Lung Foundation websites.

Special Needs Departments:


Thomson package holidays: 0871 231 4691

Thomson accommodation only: 0800 072 0040

Thomsonfly (flight only): 0871 231 4869

First Choice: 0871 6640143

Thomas Cook – Before booking: 0844 8550515

After Booking: 0870 513 3102

Cosmos: 0871 4238422

XL Airways: 0871 911 4221

Monarch: 08700 405040

Easyjet: 0871 2442366

Avro: 871 423 8550 or 0161209 4259

Jet2: 0203 031 8103

Globespan: 0131 466 7609